What Is Malware Analysis and Why Is It Necessary?

What is Malware Analysis

Malware analysis offers insight into how malware operates, giving analysts insight into what attackers are attempting to accomplish by harming systems, as well as aiding detection and mitigation efforts.

Static and dynamic analysis are two popular types of malware analysis. Static analyses focus on inspecting code without running it; while dynamic ones focus on monitoring and manipulating samples in a safe laboratory environment.

What Is Malware Analysis?

Malware analysis refers to the process of collecting and examining malware for any security incidents that occur, providing incident responders with vital data they can use to quickly identify and contain threats.

Malware analysts use various tools to examine malicious code, such as disassemblers, debuggers and hex editors. This enables them to reverse engineer it and gain a better understanding of how it functions; additionally it may reveal any malicious intent and provide insight into potential attack vectors.

After completion of analysis, samples can be placed into a sandbox environment to see how they perform under controlled circumstances. This approach is especially useful in analyzing novel threats known as zero-day attacks that don’t fit well with known examples and can bypass signature-based detection mechanisms.

Behavior analysis can be performed manually or with an automated tool such as Falcon Sandbox or SNDBOX. Automated tools run numerous tests against malware samples in order to quickly identify its specific behaviors and classify it, such as which family it falls under.

Malware Analysis Process

Malware analysis involves dissecting malicious software to understand its functionality, source, and potential effects on your network. Furthermore, this helps identify emerging threats and devise countermeasures against them.

Static analysis, code analysis and dynamic analysis comprise three major phases in this process. Static analysis involves inspecting malware without actually running it to extract metadata, hashes and other information from it – making this the fastest and simplest way to identify suspicious files.

Analysts use specialized tools such as debuggers and disassemblers to reverse-engineer malware, decipher encrypted data, understand its algorithms, and even uncover any previously unsuspected capabilities it may possess.

Dynamic analysis involves running malware in a controlled environment such as a commercial sandbox in order to observe its behavior and understand how it would impact systems. Specialized tools, like memory analysis tools, must then be employed in order to scan for and identify processes, verify driver signatures and monitor open network sockets in order to create IOCs for future detection and prevention purposes.

Step 1: Capture the malware.

As part of an analysis process, malware must first be captured for inspection. Once flagged as suspicious, its file can then be run in an automated sandbox environment to gain more insight into what might happen once inside a network.

Utilizing tools such as disassemblers, debuggers and decompilers it’s possible to break down code into manageable chunks for analysts to examine, helping identify any unusual or suspicious elements which could indicate an attempt at cyberattack.

Malware analysis can provide invaluable insight into its origins. By tracking down its coder and tracking their activity, analysts can more effectively pinpoint an attack’s source.

Malware analysis can help teams detect vulnerabilities exploited by cybercriminals, helping teams protect sensitive data and prevent future attacks. Malware analysis also allows professionals to quickly recognize a threat’s behavior and potential impact, so that security teams can respond swiftly to mitigate damage quickly. Malware analysis should therefore form part of every Security Operations Center team’s arsenal – it requires expertise across numerous fields including incident response, forensics, system and network administration and software engineering for its success.

Step 2: Build a malware lab.

A lab environment is necessary for performing malware analysis. This may consist of as simple an air gapped network on dedicated systems or more intricate configurations using real networking hardware; its primary goal should be protecting both the host system and providing comprehensive analysis capabilities.

Establishing a lab requires two virtual machines: one to execute malware and observe changes to the system, and another serving as a C2 server and providing visibility of communications with remote controllers. For proper analysis, two machines may be helpful as many samples contain anti-analysis protections that detect if reverse engineering tools are present on either host machine and disable them accordingly; alternatively they could prevent anti-analysis protections from activating by having different hosts doing analysis simultaneously.

Physical systems can also serve as labs, but their customization requires extensive effort and can be expensive. Joe Labs provides an alternative sandbox-as-a-service solution, eliminating the need for custom lab design while saving time in incident response scenarios.

Step 3: Install your tools.

Malware refers to any malicious software that causes harm to computers, networks and users in some way. Malware may steal, encrypt or delete sensitive data; alter core computing functions; monitor end user activity; cause financial loss or physical damage – making detection hard but understanding its operation can help reduce its effects and help mitigate losses or damages more quickly. Although malware may be hard to spot at first glance, being prepared and understanding how it operates may help mitigate its harmful effects and make detection simpler.

Static malware analysis involves inspecting an executable file to detect suspicious artifacts. This may involve hashing and comparing libraries, embedded strings, imports or any IOCs which might indicate suspicious activities. Automated tools like PeStudio make this process faster.

Dynamic malware analysis involves closely observing the actions of malicious code in action. This can be accomplished with various tools including disassemblers, decompilers, and debuggers; two popular open-source options are IDA Pro Freeware and OllyDbg; other helpful options include Process Hacker’s string analysis capabilities and x64dbg’s analysis of NTFS memory for risky API calls and memory allocations as well as Wireshark which provides deep packet inspection of network traffic.

Step 4: Record the baseline.

Malware analysts use various tools to dissect malware binaries in order to gain clues about their function, develop detection methods and determine how best to contain infections. An essential first step involves inspecting a binary’s printable characters using Strings program – however this process may be time consuming; machine learning models which rank strings according to relevance for malware analysis may assist.

Malware samples can be further examined using dynamic techniques, which observe their behavior while running on an OS and hardware platform. These techniques are particularly helpful in analyzing newer or less familiar samples designed to avoid static scans.

Effective malware analysis frameworks must both protect against infection while providing full dynamic analysis capabilities. One method of doing this is running both analysis tool and malware in virtual machines known as sandboxes; however, malware can exploit vulnerabilities within these VMs in order to escape and infiltrate host OSs, an attack pattern which should be prevented using security controls within such virtualization sandboxes.

Step 5: Commence your investigation.

Malware analysis starts by understanding the purpose and functionality of suspicious files, either through static analysis, dynamic analysis or both methods simultaneously. Static analysis inspects code without actually running it while dynamic analysis executes malware in controlled conditions to observe any changes it causes to behavior and observe for changes over time.

Malware analysis may require time, specialized knowledge, and tools. But its results are invaluable for cybersecurity teams; it can detect threats that go undetected or reveal indicators of compromise (IoCs) that help discover similar infections across an organization’s systems.

Additionally, malware analysis can reveal attack techniques and methodologies employed by adversaries, providing useful insights that may allow us to build more effective defenses against them or better understand why an incident took place. Furthermore, malware analysis may identify any zero-day vulnerabilities exploited by attackers in order to gain entry to systems.

Malware Analysis – Fortifying the Digital Fortress

Malware Analysis is an essential step in detecting indicators of compromise (IoCs). This enables incident response teams to proactively detect emerging threats and preemptively counter new attack strategies aimed at strengthening an organization’s digital fortifications.

Malware analysis is the practice of inspecting malware in controlled environments such as sandboxes or virtual machines (VMs). The process includes three distinct phases – behavioral, static and dynamic analysis.

Types of Malware Analysis

Malware analysis refers to the practice of assessing the functions, source and potential impact of malicious code. This process can be carried out manually or using automated tools like sandboxes that enable secure execution and analysis in controlled environments.

Static malware analysis involves studying an IOC (Indicators of Compromise) without running it and extracting metadata such as filenames, commands, API calls, registry keys and URLs to identify its variants and how they infiltrated a network.

Dynamic malware analysis involves running malicious software in a controlled environment, such as a sandbox, and monitoring its behavior against the system. This approach can help analysts uncover its true intentions and camouflage strategies; additionally it may shed light on how specific types of malware operate in order to enable future detection and mitigation measures.

1. Static malware analysis

Static malware analysis allows security teams to assess a suspicious file without running it, giving security teams valuable clues into its potential malicious behavior. This may include strings embedded within code, header details, hashes and metadata. Security teams can also take advantage of open source intelligence services like VirusTotal to learn more about specific samples of malware.

These insights can aid security teams in prioritizing, categorizing, and investigating potential threats more rapidly. For instance, when suspicious files contain strings that match an IOC indicator (such as string matching malware families and operations). By flagging it for further examination and reducing false positives this helps teams focus more closely on identifying malware families, how it operates, capabilities etc – an integral component of an effective cybersecurity approach.

2. Dynamic malware analysis

Cybersecurity teams must rapidly identify threats in order to reduce risks and protect against future attacks. Malware analysis enables incident responders to quickly identify such threats by providing high-fidelity alerts earlier than other technologies in the attack cycle.

Static malware analysis examines a file without running it, but can be compromised by sophisticated malware that includes hidden runtime behavior that goes undetected by static properties analysis. For instance, if a file generates dynamic strings and downloads another file based on those strings without prompting from static properties analysis.

Dynamic malware analysis involves running suspicious code within an isolated environment (known as a “sandbox”) in order to observe its behavior, either manually using virtual machines (VM) or automatically through fully automated sandboxes.

3. Manual malware analysis

Manual malware analysis involves employing debuggers, disassemblers and other specialized tools to reverse engineer and understand malware’s functionality. Though time consuming, manual analysis may uncover undiscovered capabilities of threats as well as help pinpoint their intentions.

Malware developers often employ sophisticated methods to avoid detection by security teams and stay hidden from discovery. By employing such techniques, attackers can bypass antivirus software, sandboxing solutions and other security technologies – making it increasingly important for security analysts to have both manual and automated malware analysis tools at their disposal.

An all-in-one malware analysis tool like Intezer will scan files that appear suspicious and assess their potential impact on your network, providing alerts that are prioritized according to severity and saving your team much manual work.

4. Automated malware analysis

As individuals and businesses become more dependent on technology, cybercriminals have increased the frequency and severity of malware attacks. To combat them effectively, security teams should conduct malware analysis.

This process includes evaluating the characteristics, functionality and origins of malicious software to mitigate threats and prevent further occurrences. It also involves extracting IoCs from malware samples for more effective threat hunting and alerts in SEIMs and threat intelligence platforms.

Malware analysis can be conducted both manually and automatically using tools. Fully automated analysis quickly assesses suspicious files to assess potential repercussions should they infiltrate your network, while manual examination aims at taking a more in-depth approach by breaking apart malware components to understand how it functions and its intended impact.


Malware analysis is an indispensable tool for ethical hackers who wish to understand how attackers operate and protect themselves and the digital ecosystem from cyber attacks. Malware analysis allows ethical hackers to identify vulnerabilities, neutralize attacks and devise effective defense strategies in order to keep systems and data free of malicious activities.

Discovering hidden Indicators of Compromise (IOCs) and malware patterns allows security teams to more quickly detect threats and take timely mitigation actions, while increasing alert efficacy resulting in more accurate threat detection with reduced false positives.

Predicting Emerging Threats: Malware analysis provides organizations with insights that enable them to anticipate and respond quickly to emerging threats before they become real risks, helping to enhance cybersecurity posture with tailored defense mechanisms such as stopping lateral movement, installing kill switches and edge micro-segmentation. It also facilitates conducting forensics by studying attack methodologies, tracking origins and supporting legal actions; finally it allows rapid incident response by shortening response times while rapidly mitigating potential threats.

Sam is an experienced information security specialist who works with enterprises to mature and improve their enterprise security programs. Previously, he worked as a security news reporter.